“Half of the battle is won in the first two steps.”
Eleven-year veteran Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts knows a thing or two about getting to the opposing quarterback with 111 career sacks. But he isn’t a six-time NFL Pro Bowler because he takes his training lightly. Hardly, as Mathis hits the weight room hard and with a strategy behind it.
“(I do) a lot of explosive-type, position-specific lifts,” he says. “With the (offensive) tackles in today’s game, I’m going up against 300-pound athletic guys. So I need as much of an equalizer as possible.”
Now that the regular season is upon us, Mathis is more than ready to go to battle. And he knows that his legs are his moneymakers.
“I can’t stress enough importance when it comes to lower body strength,” explains Mathis, who was a part of the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI championship team. “It keeps you up for the long haul.”
Exercises such as squats, power cleans, lunges, step-ups and hang cleans are all on the agenda for Mathis. “I don’t do deep squats any more,” the Alabama A&M alum says. “You have to be conscious of your knees and joints, overall. I do a lot of machine or single leg squats and they put the emphasis on strengthening my quads and getting that teardrop to them.”
Playing a 4-3 defensive end position for the first nine years of his career, Mathis had to make some adjustments when switched to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme last season. But both can be mastered with a simple mantra.
“It’s all about (the) get-off,” he says, “if you’re in a two or three-point stance. In a three-point (at defensive end), you have your hand down and work on your step, replacing your hand with that foot. You want to get a big first step. In a two-point, you have to keep your inside leg up.”
Spoken like the winner that he is.